While New York Red Bulls II's 5-1 win over Orlando City B Friday night was impressive on the field, what may have been even more impressive was the fact that six players in the team were produced by the club's academy. That fact has some Orlando City fans confused as to why their club isn't producing the same talent.
— Iron Lion Firm (@IronLionFirm) August 13, 2016
But the answer is quite simple; patience.
Shortly after the founding of Orlando City SC, Founder and President Phil Rawlins went about creating the club's academy. Early on, Rawlins stated that his goal was to see seven players out of the academy play for the first team. It was an ambitious plan and one that takes time to see come to fruition.
The process of developing talent through a professional soccer academy is not an easy task. It takes years of training and focus to mold young players into future stars. Experts in the field say that it takes around seven years for a professional academy to begin producing players for the first team. If you're expecting at least one of those players to make his debut at 18, which is probably the youngest you should expect, that means they need to be in the academy at the age of 11 or 12.
Different countries have different ideas when it comes to the age that players should be brought into an academy. In England, for example, they like to bring the kids in at the key development ages between seven and 11. This goes with the theory that kids need to play for 10,000 hours. But in Germany, they start bringing kids into the academy at the age of 11 under the assumption that allowing the kids to play other sports during their key development years will enhance their motor skills, creating better athletes.
No matter what theory you might believe when it comes to youth development, everyone agrees that you want players in the academy by the age of 12. That gives the player an appropriate amount of years to learn the game in the academy system before moving on to the professional level.
The fact that kids need to have been in the academy for a period of years to be successfully developed is why Orlando City is just now beginning to see kids that could be considered potential first-team players. A teenager that joined the club at 16 or 17 is far less likely to have the time to properly develop into a player that the club feels can be useful at the MLS level.
The move to seeing academy kids play in professional games has been apparent this season with the addition of OCB. Pierre Da Silva, David Loera, Jack McCloskey, Raul Aguilera, and Landen Haig are all players that have come through the Orlando City academy and have been listed on the team sheet for OCB this year. And what's notable about these players is that most of them joined the Orlando City academy at 11 or 12 years old.
Some looked at the game Friday night and thought Orlando City was lacking in developing players due to the fact that there were six academy products in the Red Bulls II team. However, while the Orlando City academy was just beginning in 2011, the Red Bulls academy was founded in 2005. The fact that Orlando City has any academy products ready to play at the USL level means that they are right on schedule. In fact, with the play of Da Silva and Loera, many would claim they are ahead of schedule.
Professional youth development is a process that takes time. Rushing a kid up too early could mean skipping significant steps in their development and setting them up for failure. The fact that Orlando City already has so many players prepared to play at the USL level is a testament to how well the academy has done since its establishment. And soon you'll be seeing a large amount of locally developed kids in the first team. You've just got to be patient.